Big call: Comedian Dom Joly helps launch a retro Nokia 3310
A quarter of households in the UK have at least one old, unused mobile phone gathering dust, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.
But millions could be missing out on a tidy profit, the handsets can still be worth something – even if they are old or broken.
A few, rare models can fetch thousands of pounds as collectors’ items. But even more common versions can still have value.
Apple’s hotly-anticipated iPhone 14 went on sale on Friday, stirring up excitement among fans of new technology. This is the first model that can automatically call the emergency services if you’re in a crash and that enables you to text using a satellite connection when you can’t get a signal or wi-fi.
But there are plenty of reasons to get excited about old handsets too – some could even dial you up a return of thousands of pounds.
The old phones worth thousands
Mobile phones are so ubiquitous that it may seem hard to imagine that any could be seen as collectors’ items. However, some of the earliest and most iconic can now command large sums.
Lynsey Chilcott, from Love Antiques, explains: ‘The oldest phones were not made on the scale that they are today and so several are rare and continue to hold value as collectables.’
She adds that if you have one of these older phones, you should seek specialist advice and consider selling at auction to command the best prices.
The Golden oldies… as big as bricks
The first mobile phones were brick-sized, heavy and had short battery lives. Today they are defunct, but iconic and collectable.
Motorola 8000x £800 – £3,500
The original granddaddy of mobile phones. It was released in 1983 and was heavy, enormous and with a 30-minute battery life.
Mobira Senator NMT £800 – £2,000
Technically a car phone, this handset was arguably the first portable mobile and was on sale in 1981.
Technophone PC105T £600 – £1,500
The 1986 Technophone was the first phone designed to slip neatly into a shirt pocket. It had a price tag of £1,990 – the equivalent of £6,481 in today’s money. It won the Prince of Wales Award in 1988.
Dial up a fortune with a Luxe phone
Over the years, phone companies have issued limited edition, luxury versions of handsets designed for posing with as much as texting or making calls. Some are valuable today.
Vertu Signature M £50 – £20,000+
Nokia launched its Vertu Signature range in 2003. Ordinary Vertu phones now sell for around £50, but some of the luxury versions are worth thousands. An 18-carat white gold diamond encrusted model is worth more than £20,000, so long as you have the original packaging and papers to prove authenticity.
Nokia Sapphire 8800 £500 – £2,000
Issued in 2005, there are versions sporting leather covers, titanium and carbon fiber and even a real sapphire in place of the navigation button. Also available in 18-carat gold plate.
Not for sale… but still sought-after
Models that never made it to market are often the most valuable and sought-after due to their rarity. There are a lot of counterfeits knocking about so only buy from a reputable seller or auction house.
Pre-production Prototype iPhone 1 £10,000 +
The Apple iPhone released in 2007 marked a watershed in mobile technology. If you’ve got one of the first 2G phones, it’s likely worth around £2,000 if it’s still in the box. But, the prototype models can fetch you have thousands of pounds. Prices vary considerably, but have reached £30,000 in online auctions, according to Love Antiques.
Nokia 7700 £1,000 – £2,000
Another prototype, this model was never actually sold so handsets are rare. It dates back to 2003 and would have beaten the iPhone as the world’s first smartphone…had it ever hit the shelves.
Ringing up a fortune: From left, the Motorola 8000x; the £20,000 diamond-encrusted Vertu; the Technophone; Nokia Sapphire; the iPhone 1 prototype; and the Nokia 7700, which was never sold
Cash from common models
There are a number of tech resale companies that will buy phones even if they are old or damaged. These include musicMagpie, We Buy Any Phone, Compare and Recycle, Mazuma and Envirofone. You may only get a few pounds, but that’s better than leaving it gathering dust.
Antonia Hristov, an expert at tech resale service Compare and Recycle, says a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in good condition would net you £20. The Apple iPhone 6, also in good condition, could earn you up to £14; the Motorola Moto G4 is worth between £14 and £16 depending on internal storage; and the first generation Google Pixel still goes for up to £20.
‘The most sold phone is an iPhone 11 and is worth up to £317,’ says Hristov. ‘The oldest mobile phones in the top 20 are the original iPhone SE and iPhone 6s, both of which are more than five years old.’
Online marketplace eBay, Gumtree and other local Facebook or community groups online allow you to list your old phone and decide your asking price. You might get more for it than from a tech resale firm, but it involves more hassle.
Before selling or passing on any old handsets, make sure you delete all your information from it, remove the SIM card and restore it to factory settings.
Remember… all old phones have value
Even if you can’t sell your old phone, it may still have value to someone else. They can be refurbished and donated to people who cannot afford to buy their own, or stripped and reused their parts.
You can donate old phones to Vodafone’s Great British Tech Appeal or O2’s Community Calling. Compare and Recycle, Sell My Mobile and Compare My Mobile aggregate offers from dozens of services that will either buy, redistribute or recycle your old phones for you.
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